At EUR 474.6 million, the investment expenditures of the voestalpine Group in the first half of the business year 2018/19 surpassed those of the same period the previous year (EUR 337.9 million) by 40.5%. This increase is due for the most part to the Steel Division’s major overhaul of its blast furnace A between June and September 2018 at a total cost of some EUR 180 million. While the High Performance Metals Division also saw increases stemming from necessary preliminary work in connection with the construction of the new special steel plant in Kapfenberg, Austria, the investment volume of the two other divisions more or less matched that of the previous year.
The Steel Division’s investments in the first half of the business year 2018/19 were dominated by the comprehensive repairs of blast furnace A, which had been prepared for a long time; this blast furnace accounts for about two thirds of the entire pig iron production at the Group’s Linz site. As a result, the division’s investment expenditure of EUR 91.2 million in the first half of the business year 2017/18 more than doubled to EUR 206.8 million in the current reporting period. During the repairs, which took three and one half months, not only the insides of the blast furnace but also all of its other elements (including the measurement and control technology; the gas cleaning system; the central blower as well as the media and cooling units) were overhauled in toto. The facility’s high technical standard makes a major contribution to the better use of resources as well as to the optimized use of materials and thus to greater efficiency and ongoing improvements in profitability. The steel plant used the steep decline in the production of pig iron during the blast furnace repairs to replace portions of the crane track girders, which had seen better days.
The investment expenditure of the High Performance Metals Division in the first half of the business year 2018/19 was EUR 102.0 million and thus 42.9% higher year over year (EUR 71.4 million). The groundbreaking ceremony that took place in Kapfenberg on April 24, 2018, launched the construction of a new special steel plant. The preparatory work was carried out according to plan, and the tenders for the facilities’ control systems have also been awarded in the meantime. Kapfenberg also saw the launch of the pilot operations of a high-tech forging press, which will be used to form nickel-based alloys that are destined for aircraft engine components. A new sheet rolling mill was started up at the Group’s Mürzzuschlag site in Austria, making voestalpine the first supplier in Europe capable of producing titanium sheet for the aerospace industry. In the Value Added Services business segment, the Group’s Houston, Texas, USA, site invested in a processing center for the oil and natural gas industry, which was launched in July 2018.
At EUR 65.4 million, the investment volume of the Metal Engineering Division in the first half of the business year 2018/19 was about the same as the previous year (EUR 64.9 million). There were no problems assuring supplies of high-quality pre-materials to the finishing operations during the summer while one of the two blast furnaces in Donawitz, Austria, was being repaired. Also in the Metallurgy business segment, currently a four-strand continuous casting facility equipped with fully digitalized process controls is being built at the same site; the work on the foundation has already been completed. The facility itself, which has a capacity of 950,000 tons, will be assembled next spring. This should make high-quality pre-material in the form of high-purity steels available for the division’s finishing operations as planned from the second half of the 2019 calendar year.
At EUR 95.1 million, the Metal Forming Division invested 8.9% less in the first half of the business year 2018/19 than in the first six months of 2017/18 (EUR 104.4 million). The international rollout of product innovations that are developed in house with respect to automotive components based on long-term partnerships with customers continued in the current business year. The launch in August 2018 of the mass production of autobody and structural components in Aguascalientes, Mexico, is a response to the strong growth of the automotive market in this country. An automotive site that is specialized on the production of tube components was launched in Zacatecas, Mexico. In Tianjin, China, which is near Beijing, the Metal Forming Division built an assembly plant in the immediate vicinity of the production facility of a well-known European automotive manufacturer that is currently being started up.